Jackson residents Martin and Michelle Frank make a good living: he's a carpenter and she's a night desk clerk at a local motel.

Both grew up in the area. In fact, the town of Wilson just west of Jackson is named for one of Martin's relatives.But because it's an increasingly popular area with spectacular mountain views, good skiing and easy access to two of the country's best-known national parks, housing costs have soared. Now the Franks are struggling to afford to stay.

"I know of several people that we went to high school with that have had to move out of town because they can't afford to come back," Michelle said.

"We were actually on our way out" before finding an affordable three-bedroom home through the Jackson Hole Community Housing Trust, she said while trying to comfort her restless 6-month-old daughter.

With help from the Teton County Housing Authority, the Trust has completed 51 housing units so far on land it bought with private donations.

Trust official Sara Carroll said the organization provides a 99-year lease on the land to homeowners. That ensures the value of Trust-owned land increases much more slowly than other private land in the county, in turn keeping down the cost of the houses on the Trust's land.

Franz Camenzind, director of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, said the value of the Trust-owned land increases by only 3 percent to 4 percent annually, compared with increases of 10 percent to 20 percent for other private land in Teton County.

A large part of the problem, he said, is that only about 3 percent of land in Teton County is privately owned. Much of that either has been protected from development by conservation easements or has already been developed.

"There's no question that we have a problem because the land base is finite, but our needs keep growing," he said.

As the Jackson area becomes a more popular year-round tourist destination and attracts more people who build expensive second or third homes, the need increases for workers Carroll called the "underpinnings" of the town. They're the teachers, hospital workers, police officers and laborers who make the town tick.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported Teton County's 1994 median income - meaning half the county's residents earned more and half earned less - was $37,420.

In 1995, according to the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce, the median price of a single-family home was $290,000, and the median price of a single-family condominium was $150,000. A 1997 estimate put the median sale price of a home in Teton County at about $400,000.

Rental units were cor-res-pond-ing-ly expensive, with a typical apartment renting for $682 per month and a typical rental house going for $1,077 per month in the second quarter of 1997. Rental costs for all of Wyoming during that period were $379 for an apartment and $513 for a house, according to the semi-private Wyoming Housing Data Base Partnership.

"In any other kind of community, the kinds of people who live here would be able to afford a home: a bank president, a restaurant manager, but because of the price of land in this community and the dearth of land . . . the problem is exponential," Carroll said.

The problem worsens in late spring and late fall, when seasonal workers pour in to help handle the influx of summer and winter tourists.

Until a recent clampdown, as many as 1,000 summer seasonal workers who could not find affordable housing in Jackson lived illegally in the Bridger-Teton National Forest just outside town.

"It's not necessarily that there's not any housing, it's just that they charge so much for it," said Michelle Frank. "Most people have to work at least two jobs just to be able to afford a place."

The Frank family is one of those that falls between the cracks; Martin and Michelle make too much money to qualify for government assistance, but because of the high cost of housing in the area, they have trouble affording things like health insurance.

"We're not just throwing our money away for everything else," she said.